Muhammad attacked the doctrine of original sin and the "reverse side" of that doctrine, the Gospel that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all men need salvation, and that salvation is offered to all men and women through Christ Jesus. Muhammad "tampered" with the revelation of original sin, and thereby "undermined" the mystery of Christ.
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - G. K. Chesterton famously said that the Christian doctrine of original sin, a doctrine as "practical as potatoes," was the one doctrine of Christianity that could most easily be empirically proved, which I suppose also means it is the least reasonable to deny.
A bit of extrospection of human history and our fellow men coupled with a bit of introspection of our own souls should quickly inform us that there is something presently not quite right with us.
Extrospection should led us to the conclusion of St. John: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23)
Introspection should lead us to the same place that St. Paul found himself when he said: "For I do not that good which I will; but the evil which I hate, that I do." (Rom. 7:15).
Though reason cannot tell us the source of this inner fracture within man, we really have no reasonable basis to deny the "indisputable dirt," as Chesterton called it, of original sin. As long as there are persons who can feel exquisite pleasure at skinning a cat as Chesterton says (or, we might add when discussing Islam, killing black dogs), and we believe in the goodness of God and his creation, then we are compelled to believe in something like original sin to explain this situation.
As the Catechism teaches: "Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile," and not only futile, but false. (CCC § 386) In the words of St. John: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:18) This is true for both actual sins and original sin.
Based upon the revelation contained in Scripture (for without such revelation we might know of original sin's manifestations, but would be ignorant of its source, its meaning, and of its cure), the Church identifies the source of this flaw in all men. "Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents." (CCC § 390) This first sin of our parents, in particular the effects it has had on all mankind, is the Christian doctrine of original sin.
Whether in the context of a Christian understanding Islam, or a Muslim understanding Christianity, the Christian doctrine of original sin, as taught by the Church, must be properly grasped. It behooves us to review the doctrine as revealed in Scripture as understood by the Church.
Original sin is called "original" because the explanation for our current predicament is found at the origin of humankind as well as at our origin (i.e., at our own origin or conception).
With respect to Adam and Eve, the sin was actual, personal to them. With respect to us, it is called original "sin" only in an analogical sense, as "it is a sin 'contracted' and not 'committed'" by us; it is "a state," in which we had no choice, "and not an act" in which we had a choice. (CCC § 404)
Original sin is the result of the "Fall" of mankind, the primeval actual sin of the first human couple--Adam and Eve--that affects us all as their progeny. It is an event historically albeit highly-figuratively-related in the third chapter of the book of Genesis. That revelation, implicit in Genesis Chapter 3 and elsewhere (e.g., Gen. 8:21; Prov. 22:15; Ps. 14:2, 51:5, Job 14:1, 4, 15:14-16; Jer. 17:9; Eccl. 9:3), has been amplified by the teachings of St. Paul, who construed the narrative of Genesis under the light of Christ. (Cf. Gen. 3:1-8; Rom. 5:12 ff. See also 1 Cor. 15:21-22; Eph. 2:3)
As the Second Vatican Council summarizes it: "What Revelation makes known to us is confirmed by our own experience. For when man looks into his own heart he finds that he is drawn towards what is wrong and sunk in many evils which cannot come from his good creator. Often refusing to acknowledge God as his source, man has also upset the relationship which should link him to his last end, and at the same time he has broken the right order that should reign within himself as well as between himself and other men and all creatures." (Gaudium et spes, 13)
The doctrine of original sin is tied to the doctrine of original justice (iusitia originalis), which is also sometimes known as original righteousness or original grace. Original sin is tied to original justice because it is the explanatory doctrine of how we lost original justice. Original sin is also tied to Jesus Christ through whom we regain original justice, which is to say, salvation and eternal life in heaven.
In the Catholic view, man as originally created by God in Adam and Eve in a state of original justice might be seen as a building of three stories. While the analogy is not perfect, it will serve our purposes. The first floor might be called the floor of pure nature. The second story is the floor of the preternatural. The third floor is the floor of supernatural. Each level builds upon the lower level. (There is also a basement, more of which, later.)
The first floor of man, his natural makeup, is entirely natural. The natural man is composed of a material body and spiritual, rational soul. Though theologians call this state one of pure nature, it is, in a way, an abstraction since, as we know from revelation, man was intended from the very beginning to be in communion with God, to enjoy a life of sanctifying grace or divinization by adoption, and so the state of "pure nature" is never one that was intended by God as the ultimate end of man.
The second floor of man involves his so-called preternatural gifts. Traditionally, the Catholic theologians have seen these as being three in number: bodily immortality, integrity, and infused knowledge. These gifts are not strictly due human nature itself, but were gifts, graces intended for mankind on the condition it not sin. They do not surpass the capacities of nature, but were naturally-based prerogatives that were given to man at his origin. As originally created, man was physically and spiritual immortal, was free from concupiscence (which is to say there was perfect integrity between reason and body), and had infused knowledge of God, of morals, and of the cosmos.
The third floor of man involved the sanctifying grace that was Adam and Eve's supernatural gift, and which, in God's original design, was intended to be passed down to his progeny. In its most basic sense, sanctifying grace may be defined as a quality strictly supernatural, a gift of God to man, which inheres in the soul as a habit or relatively permanent presence, and by which we are made to participate in God's own nature. The gift of sanctifying grace is entirely supernatural in that it goes beyond the natural capacity of man. It is nothing owed to man by nature. It is nothing man can give himself. It is a pure, simple, magnificent gift of God. In a superlative sense, it is grace upon grace. (Cf. John 1:16)
As St. Thomas Aquinas expressed it: "Now the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature, since it is nothing short of a partaking of the Divine Nature, which exceeds every other nature. And thus it is impossible that any creature should cause grace. For it is as necessary that God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the Divine Nature by a participated likeness, as it is impossible that anything save fire should enkindle." (S.T. IaIIae, q. 112, c.)
As a result of the Fall, Adam and Eve (and through Adam all mankind) lost sanctifying grace, the preternatural gifts, and, as a result, damaged human nature. One might say that, as a result of the Fall, Adam and through him all men and women, were evicted as it were, from the third, second, and first floors, and as a result mankind found itself in residence in a basement, the place of post-lapsarian human nature, nature in the state of "original sin."
It is our fall from original grace, in particular, the loss of the supernatural life given freely by God to man who has no claim in justice to it (for the supernatural life is something beyond man's nature) and the loss of the preternatural gifts (again, a gift given freely to men by God which is not demanded by man's nature), from which all men suffer. And what is left as a result of the withdrawal of sanctifying grace and the preternatural gifts is not pure nature, but a damaged nature that bears the scars of its intended glory.
As G. K. Chesterton put it in his book Heretics, "Take away the supernatural, and what remains is the unnatural." Through the loss of our supernatural inheritance, man is in an unnatural state, an unnatural state we call the state of original sin. "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me," is the cry of all mankind. (Ps. 51:5 [50:7])
It is this loss of this original justice, the effects of the original sin, as well as from the guilt and punishment for our own personal or actual sins, that Our Lord Jesus, in his sacrificial and redemptive death on the Cross, meant to remedy. Jesus came to fix our natural life, and to restore our supernatural life.
As the Catholic Church beautifully expresses it in the Catechism, it is a gross mistake to approach "the origin of evil" "as merely a "developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc." (CCC §§ 385, 387)
The mystery of sin is answered only by understanding "the profound relation of man to God," by turning to Revelation, and by "fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror," Jesus the Lord, and his Incarnation, his Passion and Death, and his Resurrection. (CCC §§ 385,386)
The doctrine of original sin is an essential truth of the faith. It is revealed by God. It begins with the truth that God created man in his image and that God "established him in his friendship." (CCC § 396) But, tempted by the Devil, man abused his freedom, preferred himself over God, and disobeyed God.
"In that sin," the Catechism says, "man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status, and therefore against his own good. Constituted in a state of original holiness, man was destined, by grace, to be fully 'divinized' by God in glory."
This, unfortunately, was not to be. "Seduced by the devil, he [Adam] wanted to 'be like God,'" the Catechism says, but in a different way altogether from how God intended. As the Catechism states it quoting the words of St. Maximus the Confessor, man wanted to be like God "without God, before God, and not in accordance with God.'" (CCC § 398).
The Scriptures teach that some tragic consequences came from this historical event, not only for Adam and Eve, but also for all their progeny. They lost "original holiness" or "original justice" which was expressed in an intimate communion with God. As a result of the Fall, every human being from the moment of conception is in a state of separation from God.
(Catholics, as well as the Orthodox and some Protestants, also believe that Mary, she who was extraordinarily "full of grace," through the anticipated merits of Christ and for the purpose of bringing us Christ, was preserved by a singular act of grace from original sin, and so, as the perfectly redeemed one, is the sole exception to the rule.
St. Augustine, who had a central role in developing the teaching of original sin, stated in his book On Nature and Grace (De natura et gratia) [36.42]: "With the exception, therefore, of the holy Virgin Mary, in whose case, out of respect for the Lord, I would have no question raised when there is talk of sin -- for how do we know what further grace was conferred on her for absolute victory over sin, she who deserved to conceive and bear Him who obviously had no sin? -- with the exception, then, of this Virgin, could we but gather together in their lifetime all those saints, men and women, and ask them whether they were free from sin, what in our opinion would have been their answer? . . . . No matter how remarkable their holiness in this body . . . they would have cried out with one voice: 'If we should say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us' [1 John 1:8]."
As the (Protestant!) poet William Wordsworth expressed it:
Mother! whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade of thought to sin allied.
Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature's solitary boast . . . .)
With the Fall, mankind's relationship with God was changed from one of intimacy and friendship, to one of fear and distrust, even (from man's side) enmity. Man's inner harmony was "shattered," along with the soul's spiritual faculties and their control over the body. The relationship between men and women became subject to tensions, marked thereafter "by lust and domination." (CCC § 400).
The harmony of creation itself was broken; visible creation became "alien and hostile to man," and it was "subject 'to its bondage to decay.'" (CCC § 400). Moreover, death--two kinds of death--entered into the world: physical death and spiritual death, the "death of the soul," from both of which no man has the power to escape. (CCC §§ 400, 403) Man, moreover, was captive "under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil." (CCC § 407; cf. Heb. 2:14)
The Church's teaching, based upon Scripture, is clear that all men are "implicated in Adam's sin." (CCC § 402). In the Catechism, the Church quotes St. Paul: "By one man's disobedience," that is, Adam's disobedience, "many (that is, all men) were made sinners," and "sin came into the world through one man," Adam, "and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned." (Rom. 5:12, 19) The "universality of sin and death" inherited from Adam is then contrasted "with the universality of salvation in Christ." (CCC § 402). "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men." (Rom. 5:18)
While, as a result of the Fall, "human nature has not been totally corrupted," and so is in the main good and hence worthy in God's eyes of redemption, it is nevertheless "wounded in the natural powers proper to it." For example, it is "subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence." (CCC § 405)
Something is required to repair human nature if it is to achieve its supernatural destiny, namely, "baptism" in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which imparts "the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God." Even so, "the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle." (CCC § 405)
To be sure, God brings forth good out of evil (Gen. 50:20), and this principle is no less true with regard to the Fall, the primordial moral and ontological evil, than with any evil. The Catechism invokes the words of the saints and the liturgy to remind us of this Scriptural truth, which in St. Paul's words, is that "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more." (Rom. 5:20)
St. Leo the Great observed: "Christ's inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon's envy had taken away."
St. Thomas stated: "There is nothing to prevent human nature's being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good."
The Exsultet sung in Easter puts it preciously O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem! 'O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer!"
The Church warns in her teaching that "[w]e must know Christ as the source of grace in order to know Adam as the source of sin." (CCC § 388).
She expounds on her warning in a way that is extremely pertinent in analyzing Muhammad and his doctrines: "The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the 'reverse side' of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ. The Church, which has the mind of Christ, knows very well that we cannot tamper with the revelation of original sin without undermining the mystery of Christ." (CCC § 389)
In the second part of this article, we will look at Muhammad's attack on the doctrine of original sin and on the "reverse side" of that doctrine, the Gospel that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all men need salvation, and that salvation is offered to all men and women through Christ Jesus. Muhammad "tampered" with the revelation of original sin, and thereby "undermined" the mystery of Christ.
We will see that Muhammad's rejection of the doctrine of original sin is another one of his antichrist teachings since it undermines the redemptive mystery of Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and leads his followers away from sanctifying grace and salvation.
Instead of offering the Muslim the means back to a three-story mansion of a fully-healed humanity, Muhammad's teachings entrap the Muslim, through the law of the Shari'a, in the darkened basement of an unnatural humanity, what Muslims call fitra, an existence separated from communion with God which, in any real sense, comes only through sanctifying grace which comes to us in Jesus and through Jesus alone.
"No one comes to the Father, but through me," said Jesus. (John 14:6) This is a central truth Muhammad's entire life was dedicated to destroying.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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